Paulla McCarthy is a former nurse, a single mother of three, and a trailblazer in the water industry. She is the first Black woman to own and operate a spring water bottling plant in New York State, and the founder of Youth Saving Society (YSS), a nonprofit that teaches financial literacy and entrepreneurship to young people.
McCarthy’s journey to becoming a water mogul started with a simple idea: to sell bottled water to raise funds for her nonprofit. She gave her twin sons $1,600 to buy pallets of water from BJs and sell them on the street, during the pandemic. The boys quickly expanded their business, called The New York Water Boys, and landed contracts with 21 supermarkets and bodegas.
McCarthy wanted to create her own private label water brand to support YSS, so she searched for a water source online. She found a spring water bottling plant in Poestenkill, New York, owned by an elderly couple who wanted to retire. She drove there with her children to taste the water, and ended up buying the plant and the 15 acres of land that contained an aquifer.
“I didn’t know anything about water. I just knew I wanted to own something,” McCarthy said in an interview with Earn Your Leisure. “I wanted to change and move this narrative that we don’t own anything.”
She officially acquired the plant in October 2020, and named it YSS WaterWorks. She learned everything she could about the water industry, from testing the quality of the water to operating the machinery. She also hired a team of experts to help her run the business.
YSS WaterWorks produces natural spring water that is alkaline, mineral-rich, and free of contaminants. The water is bottled in eco-friendly glass bottles that can be recycled or reused. The company sells its water online, as well as in supermarkets, bodegas, restaurants, and hotels. It also donates water to communities in need, such as Flint, Michigan.
McCarthy’s vision is to make YSS WaterWorks a global brand that empowers people of color to own natural resources and create generational wealth. She also wants to inspire more young people to pursue careers in STEM fields and become innovators.
“I want to show them that anything is possible. You can be a nurse, you can be a mom, you can be a CEO,” she said.
McCarthy’s achievements have been recognized by various media outlets, such as Black Enterprise, The Sun, and Salonemessengers. She has also received offers from major water companies to buy her property for $20 million, but she has declined them.
“I’m not going to sell. I want to keep this legacy for my children and my community,” she said.
Another amazing New York personality is Sheila Brown, a trailblazer in the media industry. She is the CEO of Vision Multi-Media and the owner of WUFO 1080 AM and Power 96.5 FM, Buffalo’s first and only Black-owned radio stations. She is also the first Black woman to own a radio station in Western New York, a feat she achieved in 2013 after working her way up from an entry-level saleswoman to a sales manager at WUFO .
Brown’s journey in media began by chance, when she was offered a position in sales at WUFO by the general manager, Jesse Key, who was impressed by her personality at an event where she was working for the American Red Cross. Brown took the job, despite having a stable career at the Red Cross, and said it was her faith in God that allowed her to take that leap into a career that has spanned over three decades.
Brown had a vision for WUFO, which was founded in 1962 as Buffalo’s first Black-oriented radio station. She wanted to move it from a residential street on LaSalle Avenue to the African American Heritage Corridor on Broadway in downtown Buffalo, where millions of cars pass by every day . She also wanted to add an FM channel to the WUFO brand, which she did with Power 96.5, giving the station a bigger footprint in the industry and allowing it to have syndicated shows and morning shows. Continue reading about Sheila here.